Oil prices steady on falling US crude stocks and Iran sanctions

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Oil prices fell on Wednesday, following Chinese import data that highlighted an ongoing slowdown in demand from previously avid buyers, although evidence of falling US crude inventories and the introduction of Iranian sanctions helped stem losses.

Brent futures rose 90 cents, or more than 1 percent, to $74.65 a barrel by 1:38 p.m. EDT (1738 GMT), after hitting a session high of $74.90.

The U.S. government introduced a raft of new sanctions against Iran on Tuesday, targeting Iran's purchases of U.S. dollars - in which oil is traded - metals trading, coal, industrial software and its auto sector.

International Olympic Committee has signed a contract to buy about 6 million barrels of USA crude oil under single tender for delivery in November 2018 to January 2019, he said.

"Many investors were watching oil prices after the U.S. reimposed sanctions on Iran", said Hussein Sayed, chief market strategist at FXTM.

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United States sanctions on Iran's energy sector are set to be re-imposed after a 180-day "wind-down period" ending on November 4.

China is the biggest and the most valued customer for Iran's oil and imports more than 650,000 barrels of oil per day from Iran.

"Many countries, including Europeans, disagree with the US sanctions and are willing to work with Iran", said the official, who asked not to be named. Both U.S. West Texas Intermediate and global benchmark Brent crude oil futures contracts are trading higher on Tuesday. Thus, it is hard for India to stop doing business with Tehran.

While U.S. crude exports to China appear to have held up in August, with about 342,000 bpd expected to arrive, they seem set for a slump in September.

"The market continues to price in geopolitical risk from the reimposition of sanctions by the USA on Iran", said Gene McGillian, vice president of market research at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.

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Oil is being supported this week after Saudi crude production unexpectedly fell in July and US drilling appeared to slow.

Production from the unofficial leader of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) unexpectedly fell in July by 200,000 from a month earlier to 10.29 million barrels per day, sources told Reuters on Friday.

The total exported quantities of Oman crude oil during July 2018 has reached 24.08 million barrels, with a daily average of 776,800 barrels.

In terms of production, the EIA on Tuesday slightly cut its 2018 expectation for average 2018 US crude output to 10.69 million bpd, down from its previous estimate of 10.79 million bpd.

Although not imposed as yet, China has proposed import taxes of up to 25 percent on US crude, as well as on liquefied natural gas and coal. This represents around a third of global oil demand. China has proposed to impose retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion worth of US goods, including Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), fueling speculation that it could also impose tariffs on oil. Prices could easily soar if tensions rise and violence spills over into the oil market.

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